Angst

I know what it’s like to wait on important news. Haven’t we all been in that spot, waiting for the phone to ring about a new job, or waiting to hear about a loved one in turmoil? Recently I had to have a bunch of medical tests. I had gone to a cardiologist about my incredibly high cholesterol and chest pains. The doctor called my cholesterol “horrendous” and “disastrous.” It devastated me.

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I have been working on coming to terms with my leukemia and now this, another medical problem! I was scheduled for a nuclear stress test a week later. It was a very long week to wait for this test. My husband and I prayed a lot. I became anxious, panicky and even more nauseous than normal.

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During this week of angst, I was grateful for the volunteer job I have once a week at a local hospital- grateful for the busyness of it to get my mind off my worries and this horrible week of waiting. I work in the Women’s Clinic that performs mammograms and Dexa scans and my job is to be always cheerful, friendly and soothing as I show patients to the dressing rooms, and make sure they feel comfortable while waiting in the small room for the tech to arrive.

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Another part of my job is to mail letters of follow up to patients. Most of these letters are to remind patients to get their annual mammogram or to let them know the test was normal, but there are these letters in the stack that inform patients that an abnormal result occurred. The findings were inconclusive, abnormal or need additional follow up.
As I sat folding the letters and placing them in envelopes, when I came across one of the “bad” letters, it dawned on me that the person receiving this news will be worried, maybe even panicked and devastated. They would have to wait for an additional test to find out if something terrible may be wrong with them. I knew what that was like- I was feeling it that day about my own foreboding test.

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I began to pray over each letter as I folded it and stuffed it in its envelope. From the moment that letter was opened, these women would need God’s strength. I prayed they would be blessed with calm as they waited. I prayed they would get an appointment quickly to lessen the sleepless nights. I prayed that even though their minds would turn to the worst-case scenario, God would be there no matter what.

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My tests came out good. I still have this very high cholesterol but it’s being treated with medicine and I have to keep monitoring it. So, very similar to my leukemia blood tests, I have to have lipid tests regularly as well, but the prognosis isn’t as dire as I had originally thought, and I don’t need to be on pins and needles every day. Thank you, Lord!

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But I’ll never know how the follow up tests go with the women I pray for. I truly believe God is working with each of them during their journey. Through my own angst I’m called as a prayer warrior, stuffing envelopes and providing warmth and God’s love to every soul who comes through the clinic. One or two of them will get bad news and God will be there for them.

“The righteous will have no fear of bad new; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Forgive Yourself

According to the Mayo Clinic, “By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy.” And we should, “Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.”

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Forgiving yourself can give you peace. God forgives us when we ask. Jesus died for our sins and washed us clean. The step of forgiving yourself can be difficult.

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When I was little, around Junior High age, I told a couple lies about people to others. I had such guilt over it that my stomach cramped, and I thought sure I was going to Hell until I made it right. The only thing that would give me relief was confessing to the person that I had lied. It was embarrassing, but I did it, and afterwards I felt cleansed of the sin.

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That’s how I feel now, as I grapple with the “sin” of not spending enough time with my son before he died. The only thing is that I can’t ask him for forgiveness now that he’s gone, so I have to just forgive myself. But that means accepting reality, and that is hard.

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You may argue this, but I think it’s easier to forgive others than ourselves. It’s easier to ask God for forgiveness because we know His promises of it and we believe them. It takes loving kindness toward ourselves to forgive.  We know we are our own worst critics.

I have said before that forgiveness is a gift. Why can’t I give myself this gift? And part of acceptance is forgiving- I have to accept that Tyler died before we had the chance to talk about everything, but in order to do that I have to forgive myself.

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It hurts to try to control things that we cannot control, but surrender is a greater Christian value than control. It’s going from playing God, judge jury, to seeking God. A concept of Christian Cognitive Behavior Therapy is Forgiveness Intervention. It is seeking the help of a loved one or therapist to help you through forgiving yourself and knowing that God is the one who completes the work of forgiveness in our hearts.

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As I am writing this, I wish I could follow my own advice! I would give anything not to feel the way I do about myself.

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My therapist and I are working on this. Self-blame is a cognitive distortion when we blame ourselves for things we may not be entirely responsible for. One of the ways we talked about is to make a list of the things I want to forgive myself for and pray for each of them separately. We also decided I would write a letter to Tyler and send it up in a balloon.

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You have to develop your forgiveness capacity, and one way to do this might be reading about forgiveness in the Bible. Luke 6:37 says, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

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I will also write a letter to God, falling on His promises for forgiveness and asking Him to help me forgive myself.

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“You Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to ALL who call to you.”
Psalm 86:5

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If God forgives ALL of us and loves us even with our sins, and if I strive to be like Jesus, then I must forgive myself and love myself, for that is His command. I am working hard at this. DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) says radical acceptance is not pretending it didn’t happen or avoiding the issue, it is recognizing, all the way, with mind, body, soul, that something happened and deciding to accept it as fact.

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Acceptance is not allowing the suffering to accompany the pain of an event. It’s not ruminating on what could have been but accepting what is.

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There will be time for me to show my abundant love for Tyler when I am in Heaven. There is time now for me to show my love by writing him letters and everyday thinking about how much I love him. It is real- this love. It is a fact. I love my son regardless of anything else I may have or have not done. God knows this, and I know it.

Choosing our Reactions

If the event had never happened I wouldn’t be feeling this way. True. It is our reaction to events that makes us feel stress, uncomfortable. Our lives sometimes can feel like we’re dodging things. “I don’t want to do that because it makes me feel this way.”

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With God, we can bring any event. Any emotion or feeling, and pain to Him and He will comfort us. As you react to something and it creates unwanted feelings or stress, bring it to God. Ask Him to let it pass through you instead of lingering.

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This is Radical Acceptance. I acknowledge that his event happened but, with God, I can choose how to react to it. In DBT, (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) the trick is to identify the event that made you feel a certain way. It’s called the “Prompting Event.” How does that prompting event make you feel? Worried, scared? You choose.

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When Tyler died, as you might believe, I had trouble accepting the reality of it. He is my child, born from me, and now he is gone from this world. You have read my struggles with this. Hopefully you have seen me grow with God through this.

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I read in Jesus Lives an entry in which Sarah Young paraphrases Jesus as saying, “Pick up the pieces of your broken heart- scattered all around you- and bring them to me.” She goes on to say, “Sit still in my Holy Light while I cleanse you from binding webs of discouragement.”

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I like that. What a picture of Jesus cleansing off my webs on a sheet of linen. “Though your disappointment is real, my Presence with you is even more real.” I know my emotions move like a wave through me. I am not always sad, missing Tyler. I can choose another emotion- gratefulness, praise, because he is in Jesus’ arms right now. I can pick up all those sadness feelings and bring them to Jesus.

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The verse that is associated with this reading is this:

“The Spirit of the Lord…has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” Isaiah 61:1

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Radical Acceptance is admitting that what happened, happened, accepting it with your heart, mind and body. It is accepting that life is worth living even if there is pain in it, but rejecting reality turns pain into suffering. We begin to go to the what if’s and should have’s when we reject reality, and that’s when the suffering comes in. We prolong the pain.

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I think that scene of Jesus cleansing me would be a great mindfulness exercise when I’m feeling sad. As I am cleansed of my grief I can come out of mindfulness knowing that God will never leave me, that He is working to mend my broken heart. I can come out of it refreshed and that is a change of emotion.

Trials: Dad’s Testimony

Why do we have trials in our lives? My sister Sherri would say that trials build character- and she would know this well, after a lifetime of surgeries to correct facial disfigurement from a bout of Bell’s Palsy she had as a young child.

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My Dad knew this too after being diagnosed with Emphysema after a lifetime of smoking. In fact, he wrote a testimony before he died of an unrelated illness. God healed his emphysema and he lived another sixteen years without it.

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More than twenty years later, I read my Dad’s testimony and was floored at the similarities to my own life path with my grief depression and leukemia. My Dad speaks of asking God to heal him quickly, but by not being healed instantly, he would be “cheated out of the most significant growth periods of my life.” I can say the same. During this period of grief, God has grown me into a loving child of His own.

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My Dad talks about participating in his illness, making changes to his lifestyle and attitude that were needed to accept the healing process. But he warns that making these changes is hard, and with a quick healing we may not take the time to change ourselves.

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He says, “So the next time you are sick, and you want quick healing, maybe the question you have to ask is ‘Lord, what do I have to do?’ Pray for God’s guidance so you can change and grow instead of having your problem lifted from you effortlessly.”

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In my own life, God has pulled me closer to Him and throughout this time of sorrow I see myself getting closer and closer to God. Praising Him in times of struggle and trusting in His Divine guidance. It’s because of God that I am writing this blogged book. I know that He wants me to share my experiences and triumphs with those who might need it.

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My Dad says that God has His own timing and the best thing to do is “pray and wait.” He included this little prayer in his testimony:
“Dear God, You have put a mighty resource at our disposal. Help us to pray, knowing that you are always with us and ready to help us if we have FAITH and PATIENCE, Amen.”

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Pray and wait. Once I saw a quote on Pinterest and I printed it up and taped it to my kitchen cupboard and tacked it to my office board:
God’s 3 Answers to our Prayers:
1. Yes
2. Not Yet
3. I have something better in mind.

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I prayed and prayed for God to lift this PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that I had with my job. I was trying to lift the grief triggers that I was feeling at work, but God’s plan was that I spend time on myself and my relationship with Him, and that I share it with others.

I never did get over those triggers and eventually had to leave my job. Oh, what a relief to have that burdened lifted! If it weren’t for God opening up other avenues for me, I might be still miserable trying to navigate the landmines at my work.

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God’s plan was different from mine. And He lined everything up for me to see this. If I had not been close to Him, trusting Him, I would have missed out on His plan.

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My Mother wrote an additional testimony after Dad died. She says, “God will carry you through all things if you have a strong faith in Him.” She said my Dad stayed on oxygen for four years until he decided he would no longer be an invalid and got a portable tank and started walking. She says he “walked himself right off the oxygen!”

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God told my Dad to get up and fight, and he did. My Mom claimed the verse in Matthew 9:22:
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your faith has healed you.’

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And she ended her testimony with this prayer, “Thank you Lord God for always being there to listen when we ask- no matter what it is- You will carry us through. In your name we pray- Amen”

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To that I say “Amen.”

Dad's Testimony

Half-smiling and Willing Hands

Half-smiling is a kind of a trick for your mind, like it’s harder to be angry when you’re smiling. And Half smiling gives me a posture of joy when my inner being is feeling despair. An open posture, chest out and hands open, is often used in Yoga and meditation. DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) calls this Wiling Hands.

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It’s an attitude adjustment. Gratitude. Grace + Attitude = Gratitude

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When my parents were middle aged they began to frequent a Pentecostal church. At the time, I was newly married and pregnant with my son, Tyler, so I really didn’t have anything better to do on Sunday nights, what with my friends being partiers and all, so I joined them at the worship service.

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Wow! People were holding up their hands in praise during worship songs that seemed to go on forever. At this church there was new music that would compel you to just “be” in the presence of God. Some people just bent their elbows at their sides and cupped their hands up to receive and give blessings and praise.

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I connected this memory to the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of “Half-smiling with Willing Hands.” The process is to relax your face, let both corners of your mouth go slightly upward, and adopt a serene facial expression. Drop your arms to your sides, bent slightly at the elbows and unclench your hands turning your palms up with your fingers relaxed. This posture is very close to the congregants at my mom’s church, heads bent upward smiling with open hands at sides, facing Heaven.

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I’m not able to lay on the ground next to the physical being of Jesus like Mack did (see last post), but I can raise my tulip face to heaven and let Him light it up! I would smile if that happened, so it comes easily to think of that and get my face in the Half-smiling position. The willing hands comes so easily to me in this pose. I want His hands in mine and I readily make mine available. Then, I just bask in it. In His Glory.

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In DBT this practice is used when you realize and accept that you are in a situation that you cannot change, like my feelings of regret. In my daily life, as God brings me closer to him, I often read something in His Word that makes me break out into a smile. I call these thoughts up as I get into my Half-smiling posture.

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“Have faith in Him in all circumstances
Dear people.
Open up your heart to Him;
The true God shelters us in His arms.” -Psalm 62:8 VOICE

Regret is an emotion that I don’t want to keep around but it’s tough to eradicate. I’m reminded of my Mom’s own battle with regret. Before she passed, I got a very small peek into her heart when she was in Hospice. One day a Psychologist came to see her and knowing how important this was in the dying process, I tried to offer her some privacy by excusing myself into her bedroom as they spoke. I wasn’t listening in, but my Mom’s apartment was small, and I heard the doctor ask my Mom if she had any regrets. My Mom answered that she regretted she could never please her dad.

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I was astounded! My Mom was 82 years old and her dad passed decades before. Could she really still have regrets about that? It was quite a learning for me to realize there are some things that stick. Negative things can stay a part of our inner monologue for a very long time, even for our whole lives. These are things that may not be able to be changed. Certainly, in my Mom’s case, those events from her childhood could not be re-lived. Oh, how I wish I could have taken that feeling away from her!

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I guess right now what I am doing to help me with my regrets is to focus on Tyler in Heaven knowing how much I loved him. The facts are clear, I made certain decisions and I can’t go back and change them. Refusing to accept that will only keep the guilt fresh. And by re-reading what I’ve written I see a lot of “what ifs” and “If only’s.

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This clues me into the idea that I may be making a lot of assumptions about how Tyler saw everything.

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If I had changed the timing of my move, I probably wouldn’t be where I am right now. The girls’ lives would be different, I would be different, my husband’s life would be different and I won’t assume to believe that means better. God tell us that we are where we should be. He attends to our pain and he walks it with us. I need to be willing to allow him to heal my regret. I wonder if a part of me really doesn’t want to let it go? I can see that a long term project for me might be digging into that with my therapist.

“I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 30:17 NLT

The Great Sadness

This Spring, I bought this tulip plant at the grocery store. It was one of those type of plants that have a root ball and you are supposed to rip off the cardboard surrounding the root and plant it. The problem was that we hadn’t passed the intermittent frosts, yet, so I was afraid to plant it.

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Tulips are my favorite flower and it always bugs me that they have such a short life as a flower! Sure, it’s a bulb so wherever you plant it, you know it continuously comes back every year, but you have to wait a whole year to see it again! Who has that kind of patience?

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But when it flowers again the following year, it revives with even more blooms and deeper greener leaves- a better version of itself. So I put it in a crock and some water in the pure sunlight of my kitchen window.

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In this fashion, God plants us here on Earth and loves us, talks to us, gives us lots of His light and waits to see what we’ll become. I imagine we are similar to the tulip in that we are one way for a time and then we change our course and turn out to be a bigger better version as the seasons of our lives pass.
I choose to look at my set of circumstances this way. I am going to become a better person now, than I was last season.

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Jesus responded, “Beloved daughter, your faith in me has released your healing.
You may go with my peace.” –Luke 8:48

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To me, becoming a better person means coming out of my “Me! Me! Me!” state and helping others. It means living each day excited to see what God has in store for me and making the most of it. It also means taking some old clinging feelings and digging into them, so they can leave me. I can say with assurance that Grief is one of those feelings, but the worst one, which in my case is always paired with the grief is Regret.

In the book “The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young, Mack is struggling with the loss of his daughter and he is filled with regret for not being there to save her from her horrendous suffering then death. Mack calls his emotion “The Great Sadness.” I can relate to this. Although the circumstances of Tyler’s death are very different from Mack’s Missy, I have “The Great Sadness” just as well.

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Although I worked a lot, I took time to meet with Tyler’s teachers frequently, sometimes once a week to see what I could do to help him succeed. And I prayed. I prayed and prayed for him. I wanted to get out of the marriage, but I didn’t know how, and I thought I should be yoked for life. I remember reading about being un-equally yoked which I understood to be a Christian woman married to an Agnostic man. So, I prayed for my husband to find God, to come with us to church as Tyler and I went every week. But that didn’t happen, and instead of finding my way out of the marriage, God blessed me with two more children, Hillary and Kendall. With the girls around things changed a little bit and my husband was less antagonistic.

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Finally, when Kendall was four, Hillary six and Tyler fifteen, I asked my husband to leave, and he did. I didn’t realize that fifteen was a horrible age to have such a life changing event in a young man’s life! So, you can see my regrets popping up in this story: Regrets for not leaving my marriage sooner, my regret for not standing up for myself and Tyler at home, and even though I don’t regret sending my husband packing, I regret the timing. Timing is everything.

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Regret is a “Guilt” word. It’s being reminded of something wrong you did in the past, and I can’t help thinking “if only.” Oh, I had always made resolutions to change during my marriage, to be more forceful and insert my own parenting skills into the equation, and once I was on my own with the kids I did that. I can’t help thinking that in Tyler’s case it was too late.

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When Tyler died, I was understandably inconsolable I can pray for release of my suffering, I can continue my therapy and find the DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy) skills that work.
Now, I like to think that Jesus has bestowed upon my son a clear picture of my love for him. And He has bestowed upon me that we are always right where we need to be. I know this, but this is my burden, “The Great Sadness” in my life and I am working everyday to relieve the suffering. But I am planted, not buried, and God is opening me up like a flower to show me the good times like sunshine on my little tulip face.

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In one of my favorite passages from The Shack, Jesus is lying next to Mack and they are looking up into the deep night sky. Mack is happy and he is laughing with Jesus:

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“Mack lay there realizing that he was now feeling guilty about enjoying himself, about laughing, and even in the darkness he could feel The Great Sadness roll in and over him.
     ‘Jesus?’ he whispered as his voice choked. ‘I feel so lost.’
A hand reached out and squeezed his and didn’t let go. ‘I know, Mack. But it’s not true. I am with you and I am not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly, you are not lost.

IMPROVE: SELF ENCOURAGEMENT

Robert Schuller said, “It takes but one positive thought when given a chance to survive and thrive to overpower an entire army of negative thoughts.”

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Do you love yourself? When you look in the mirror or examine your heart, do you appreciate yourself? I have a hard time with this because I think I’m hard-wired to find flaws in everything, most of all myself. Have you heard the statement that you’re “harder on yourself than you are on others?” That’s me. Lots of self-judgment going on in my world.

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I was in a class once during which we were asked to look at the alphabet and choose one positive trait about ourselves, one word for each letter. After writing 26 different words, we were then instructed to cut out each word separately and place the words in an empty jar. We got arts and crafty decorating the jar, so it would look pretty on a shelf. Sometimes, when I’m being self-deprecating, I pull out a couple traits that I wrote about myself just to remind me that I love myself. Frequently this works for me and other times I think the jar is dumb and it’s just full of a bunch of words.

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I’ve also used my prayer / meditation time to contemplate a particular trait that I want to emulate right now. Using Yoga Nidra, we are asked to make an “intention” and state it three times before mentally completing a body scan. My intentions are positive affirmations of who I want to be today, in this moment, such as “I am smart” when I am feeling the opposite. If you are interested, you can access some guided Yoga Nidra audio on You Tube.
I once drew a colorful calendar in my journal and every morning I wrote down the answer to I am…. “I am Relaxed, Grateful, Blessed, Honest, etc.” The only rule was that it had to be a positive thing. Subsequently I would try to make sure my actions throughout the day illustrated that word I had decided on.

“This is my command- be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

I use the skills for IMPROVE the Moment when I am deeply sad and depressed, tied up with anxiety over things that I cannot control. There are times that I don’t feel like using the coping skills. It’s so much easier just to give in to the negative. In DBT, (Dialectic Behavior Therapy,) this is called being “Willful.” I think this is one of the reasons why I didn’t consult God in daily prayer, as well.
I know that God is in control of what is happening next in my life, what is happening now and what has already happened. When things are really bad, it’s just so hard to believe that. I thought it was easier to stay in bed- to mindlessly watch tv- rather than drudge all that up to God. I also think I was afraid that He wouldn’t answer me. Isn’t it easier to act out instead of confessing?
I thank God that He provided these strategies to help me out of the gloom, as well as the experts who work with me every week.

 

 

A Vacation from the Hamster Wheel

Imagery– Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer– open your heart and/or turn things over to God
RelaxingBreathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
VacationNo phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

IMPROVE: R is for RELAX, V is for VACATION

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
Will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1 NLT

It’s okay to feel the sadness, grief, anger, etc. Bring it to God. Acknowledge the emotions you feel, for they are real. But remember, YOU can be good to yourself! You can be gentle with your sadness and grief. . and give myself some relaxation!

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I used to relax in front of the TV all the time, in fairness I have to say that I still veg out in front of the TV, I just don’t do it all the time. I missed out on some things that I love, like reading and crafting because I was spellbound by the television. And not just any station, I’m talking the political ones. I found that I was not relaxing! Instead, I was getting all shook up by the reporting in the news.

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I had to make a change, give myself a vacation from my own head! A hot bath with lotions and potions that smell good, along with candles and music works for me, but I can’t do that when I’m ruminating. If my mind is on the bloody hamster wheel I need to do something with all that action going on in my head, so I bought a jigsaw puzzle and set it up on the kitchen table. That was relaxing to me. And during a time when I thought all my smarts had vanished from my brain, I realized that I’m really good at crossword puzzles! I enjoy puzzles because they relax me, but also, I feel confident in my abilities, which gets me to lay-off the negative self-talk.

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So take a vacation from your negative thoughts and from the constant chatter in your brain. Try some mindfulness activities. One of the goals of Mindfulness is to reduce suffering and increase happiness. That sounds good to me!

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Don’t judge yourself for your negative thoughts and don’t hold onto them either. Instead, focus your mind on the exercise you choose. You can even be mindful when hiking, or singing or any activity, just by paying attention to this moment.

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There’s a good exercise in the DBT manual (Dialectic Behavior Therapy). It’s called Stone Flake on a Lake and it goes like this:

Imagine that you are by a clear blue lake on a beautiful sunny day. Then imagine that you are a small flake of stone, flat and light. Imagine that you have been tossed out onto the lake and are now gently, slowly, floating through the calm, clear blue water to the lake’s smooth sandy bottom.
• Notice what you see, what you feel as you float down, perhaps in slow circles, floating toward the bottom. As you reach the bottom of the lake, settle your attention there within yourself.
• Notice the serenity of the lake; become aware of the calmness and quiet deep within.
• As you reach the center of yourself, settle your attention there.

I’ve found that one to be very centering. A relaxing vacation from my ever moving mind.

Read more on Mindfulness in my previous posts:
What is Mindfulness?
What is Mindfulness and Where is God in it?
Mindful Techniques: Centering Prayer
Spiritual Mindfulness Exercises

improve: P is for PRAYER

This post is a continuation of the DBT IMPROVE skill. Imagery, Imagery and God and M is for Meaning have been previously posted.

Imagery- Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning- Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer- open your heart and/or turn things over to God
Relaxing- Breathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment- Do one thing and focus on it
Vacation- No phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

IMProve: P is for PRAYER
My husband thanks God every night for even the small blessings. On the other hand, I was the habitual “forgive me for my sins and watch over me” kind of prayer, by this I mean the same lines in a rote fashion every night before I fell asleep. When bad stuff happened, or I really needed something, I always asked God, and I can pinpoint many times in my life where God has stepped in and something has turned out better than expected.

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One such story occurred when we first moved to Ohio. We were not sure what city we would eventually end up living in, so we decided to rent a house, rather than buy one. After a few years, our girls were in third and fifth grades and had established a good group of friends and extracurricular activities. We liked where we were, so we started house hunting. We found the perfect house! Modest and pretty with a big deck on the back all set up with outdoor speakers from a big stereo in the garage.

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A young couple were selling it themselves without a realtor and they proudly showed us beautiful flower beds thoughtfully planted with butterfly attracting flowers. She had a book with all of the plant descriptions highlighted so the new owner would know how to care for the garden. He had built the deck himself in order to make the most of the public park that backed up to the property.

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I was most interested in the hand-painted wall treatments especially dining room wall, upon which she had painted a scripture in beautiful gold cursive from Isaiah:

“I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the path you should follow”
-Isaiah 48:17

This is it! This is the house! We all agreed, but when I looked for mortgages, I found our low credit rating might keep us from this dream house. Settling in a new state causes some upheaval and we had gone through our share of money battles. I began to worry, and worry increased to despair. I felt like this was the house for us, but now I would never be able to make it work!
One Saturday night, about two weeks after the open house, and completely unrelated to our house problem, we decided to try out a big church in our neighborhood. We had never been to a Saturday night service before, always preferring the Sunday morning services at the churches we attended. The parking lot was packed with cars and we finally found a spot to park on the side of the church. As we walked in that side door amidst a sea of congregants, I noticed the owner of the house was right in front of me! “I think we went to your open house,” I touched her arm, “We love your house!”
Long story short, she called me a few days later and gave me the name of their lender, who we ended up using for our mortgage when we bought the house!! It was our very favorite home and we have such fond memories of the girls growing up there.

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God did that!

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Today, God is showing me that I don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get him to care about me. I saved my prayers for the “big stuff” even though with smaller things, I heard a little voice saying, “Pray about this.” My mind answered like a broken record, “Well, okay, I’ll pray about it, but not until I’ve…” He meets us where we are- not after we have tried everything else within our human capacity. God doesn’t say, “I’ll help you when you’ve suffered enough to hit your bottom.”

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.”  Psalm 8:28

By learning how to cope in my grief, by using prayer all day long, instead of only bedtime prayers, I have found some meaning in how my life has taken this deep turn. While maybe before I would tell myself that my problems are so small. “You should be able to solve small problems yourself!” Maybe I “brought it on myself” by causing the problem to happen in the first place? Like when we sold that favorite house and bought a different one wrought with problems. It was greed that made me buy that house with a pool, and shortly after, my husband lost his job. The house became a victim of the housing crash. Why would God help me when I had made this giant mistake? Do I really deserve the time and effort of the Lord God to help solve my own issues that were caused by me?

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The answer is in the scriptures and it is a resounding YES! Not only do I deserve it, but God wants me to call on Him! He is the Maker of Heaven and Earth! Now, instead, I’m asking myself, “What is stopping me from asking God first?” My response should be “Thank you, Lord! Here is what is really perplexing me today!”

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But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Luke 18:27

M is for Meaning

This post is a continuation of the DBT IMPROVE skill. Parts one and two have been previously posted.

IMPROVE is an acronym as follows:

Imagery- Imagine a happy time, hurtful emotions draining from you, very relaxing scenes, etc.
Meaning– Find purpose in a painful situation
Prayer- open your heart and/or turn things over to God
Relaxing- Breathe deeply, yoga, drink hot milk, take a bath, etc.
One thing in the moment– Do one thing and focus on it
Vacation- No phone, go to a park or beach, get a magazine, eat candy…
Self-Encouragement- “This too shall pass.” Cheerlead yourself! “I can do this!”

M is for MEANING
My son’s death is not about me, but about him. He is with Jesus in Heaven. That happened. It was a catalyst for a turn pin curve in my life.

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I don’t know why he died so young, when his life was just starting to come together, but I have found purpose in the experience of this grief. God is teaching me how to stay close to Him. He is taking my hamster wheel mind and slowing it down. That is how I started looking deeper into the Spiritual side of DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy). I would read my Bible and be amazed at how clearly God’s Word partnered with the coping skills I was learning in my DBT class.

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I’ve always known there are countless scriptures that express that God is our strength and our shield; that we only need to open the door to Jesus and He will renew our hearts and souls. I have always believed this but have never really felt confident about God being next to me everywhere and every day. I just don’t think I’ve ever taken this literally before now, and I realize that I have missed out by not acting on His promises of always being by my side, no matter what.

So often, I find myself trying everything I can think of to solve my problems, that it’s almost as if I can only accept help from God if and until I have exhausted my powers, my skills, my talents, my brains.

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Improving the Moment with Meaning in DBT is to find purpose in a painful situation and focus on whatever positive aspects can be found. The hugely positive thing now is that I have a better relationship with Jesus.

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I have found purpose in writing this book. God tells us in 2 Corinthians that as we are comforted in our dark hour we get the Lord’s mercies, so we can comfort others in a similar situation. Right now, God is helping me learn that nothing can separate me from Him and the more I read scripture and pray throughout each day’s trials, I am learning to cope. He wants me to share my experiences, to help others who are suffering with mental illness or have lost their way due to a series of bad breaks or trauma; to witness to those who are held hostage by their past, their emotions, their negativity.

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I know from his Word that we are meant to go through struggles, not sit in them and ruminate. Go through the tough emotions so you can get to the good emotions! I can’t ever remember using a term like “the beauty of my life is astonishing.” Maybe that’s because I have walked too many paths alone without my Lord.

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I have my purpose which gives meaning to the struggle. This relationship with God is deeper than any other time in my life. I want to be close to the Lord, and I feel Him leading me to what He wants me to become. I want to pray and spend time reading the Bible. I want to go to the bookstore and peruse the different versions of the Word. I want to keep meaning in my life.